When you shop for conventional beef, poultry, and eggs at the grocery store, the animals that produced that food were likely fed grain. Typically, corn and soybeans (which are plentiful, easy-to-grow crops) are fed to animals raised for meat and eggs. However, there is a move back to the old-fashioned way of raising farm animals, which is to let them graze on pasture.
Pastured and/or grass-fed animals are, obviously, raised on a diet that is different than their grain-eating counterparts. If you find grass-fed or pastured meat and eggs in your store, it’s likely more expensive, too.
- Are there advantages to this way of raising meat- and egg-producing animals?
Here are some things to consider about the advantages of grass-fed and pastured foods:
Studies in the late 90s showed a much lower count of E. coli bacteria in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed. Research also indicates that even the E. coli that is found in grass-fed beef is much more likely to succumb to the beef-eater’s stomach acid, and therefore not pose a health threat.
Multiple sources point to grass-fed meat’s nutritional superiority, particularly with regard to healthy fats. If you’ve ever seen the yolks of pastured chickens’ eggs, you can see a definite color difference and taste it, too.
Grass-fed beef and poultry also taste different. That’s because it is different! Concerns about the saturated fat found in beef may well be offset by the healthy benefits of the Omega-3’s, Omega-6’s, and CLAs in grass-fed meats.
Grass-fed meats are generally leaner anyhow. Animals that are fed grains are being fattened for market quickly, and that fat, of course, gets passed on to the consumer.
It’s been said that the only sustainable way to grow animals for food is to pasture them. The reasons for this are various, but the most obvious one is that pasturing animals makes good use of the land. Grain-fed animals are generally kept in feed lots, and the crowded conditions make for problems with managing the animals’ waste, and storm run-off from feed lots may be contaminated with this waste.
Also, in order to feed grain-fed animals on feed lots, an enormous amount of land must be dedicated to one or two basic crops that the animals eat. By contrast, pasture-feeding animals encourages biodiversity of plants which is said to be much better for the surrounding ecosystems.
Let’s face it – animals just seem happier when they are allowed to range over pasture land. Disease is less common when animals are not crowded together on feed lots, and animals are generally treated more humanely in pasture situations.